“In a world that is so fast paced I think people really need the opportunity to disconnect and engage with something that feels real”
Sofar Sounds is the beautiful creation of three friends – Rafe Offer, Rocky Start and Dave J. Alexander – who wanted to restore and rejuvenate the magic of live music. They were all tired of concerts where people talked over the music and spent more time looking at their phone than the artist in front of them. So, they organised a gig in Alexander’s North London flat. He played five songs in his living room to a group of eight friends and that night Sofar Sounds was born. Since its creation in 2009, Sofar Sounds has expanded rapidly and now puts on hundreds of wonderful and intimate events every month in more than 400 cities around the world.
After seeing countless YouTube videos of incredible Sofar Sounds performances, I decided that I wanted to experience it myself. After purchasing a ticket, the location of the show was revealed 24 hours before it began – a high-rise office block in Waterloo. An open plan kitchen space had been transformed into a performance venue with rugs spread out on the floor and sofas laid out in a semi-circle. There was a stunning view of the London Eye behind the performers and it was particularly atmospheric when the sunset stained the sky orange and pink.
There is something about being in such a small space that makes the whole experience instantly more personal. Three artists performed and there was a powerful mutual respect and appreciation between the artist and the audience that was demanded by the intimacy of the gig. The entire audience was completely silent. Not a phone in sight! It was easy to quickly become lost in the music and I almost felt as though a spell had been cast over me.
In a world that moves so quickly, with our attention being pulled in hundreds of different directions, it is so important to slow down and experience and focus on what is in front of us. Sofar Sounds gigs create an intimate space that challenges you to give your complete attention to the music and leave all distractions at the entrance. What better way to be present than in the arms of a song!
It was wonderful to chat with Natasha Bobbe (Sofar London City Director) about the Sofar Sounds experience and what makes it so magical…
Why do the Sofar shows start out as a secret?
Sofar began in people’s living rooms so initially it was to respect the privacy of these homes. As we grew and began to host shows in other locations it had already become a part of the experience that guests liked – so we kept it! We prefer to keep the line-up a secret so that guests arrive with an open mind, ready to see and hear something new. There is no headline act – it’s all about discovery.
How do you decide who performs? And how do you choose the venue?
Initially it was all word of mouth. There is still a lot of that now but artists and venues can also apply on our website to perform or host. From there we have a careful selection process to ensure the shows are diverse, intimate and always fun!
What has been your favourite venue of all the shows you’ve seen? Some of my best Sofar memories are in residential warehouse spaces where the hosts are so inclusive. You’re often sat really close to someone you’ve never met listening to something amazing and unexpected; to me it’s really magical.
Why do you believe Sofar is so important?
In a world that is so fast paced I think people really need the opportunity to disconnect and engage with something that feels real. Sofar offers that in buckets as everyone from the artists, hosts, volunteers and guests are there for the same reasons. It also offers many unknown artists a chance to play to a sold out room of eager listeners!
What do audiences and performers love most about Sofar?
For artists to have a room of silent listeners is a really special thing. A lot of musicians have played to countless bars of people talking over the music so the level of respect at Sofar is huge. The same goes for the audience – you can hear the music and see the performers (usually from within a few feet). Plus, it’s fun!
How does the intimacy of the venue change the experience for the listener?
In every way! There is definitely the moment for jumping around at a festival or dancing the night away but there’s nothing quite like being able to hear every note the artist intended to be heard which is what happens at Sofar. You also have the chance to speak to the artists which is unusual at most gigs.
If you want to join Sofar Sounds for a secret performance in unique venues all around the world then sign up online. You won’t regret it! Follow the links below to discover more about Sofar Sounds:
By Eveline Vouillemin